Knit one, purl two, pray three.
With each stitch, the members of the Elvins Baptist Church Prayer Shawl Ministry pray for the future recipients of their handmade shawls or afghans. Sometimes they know who will receive their knitted or crocheted items. Other times, they work their stitches and add their prayers knowing only that the future recipient will probably be someone who is in poor health or is grieving. Each stitch comes with a prayer for the item’s recipient.
Sometimes their prayers and creations go to people in celebration of happy things, such as a new baby or graduation from high school.
So far, the members of the ministry have given away 160 shawls, lap robes and afghans to men, women and children in the area.
“We always thought we’d get caught up, but it never happens,” said Jane Cross.
Brenda Mooney added, “It’s a continuous thing. We finish one and start another.”
Cross, Mooney and Katherine Holley met one morning to talk about the ministry and how it has grown. Cross began making the prayer shawls Feb. 20, 2007. She was retired and wanted to do something for others. Several women in the church liked the idea and they began meeting on Tuesday afternoons in the church Fellowship Hall, 202 W. Elvins Blvd., Park Hills. As word spread, teenagers, adults and senior citizens joined the effort, including some who wanted to learn how to knit.
Approximately 16 regulars participate in the prayer shawl ministry, although they do not all attend every Tuesday. The weekly gathering is a social occasion, but most people work on their projects at home as well.
“I can make one in a week if it’s an easy pattern,” Cross said.
People work at their own pace, although Cross and Holley often tease Mooney about her slow process.
“She’s been working on the same one for a year,” Cross said.
“A year?” Holley replied. “You mean since we started!”
Mooney takes the kidding in stride.
“When this is finished, it will go to someone who needs a lot of prayers,” she said.
Tuesday afternoon gatherings begin at 1 and last an hour or two. They often bring snacks, although sometimes they raid the church refrigerator to make ice cream floats, Cross confided with a grin.
The women buy yarn if they want certain colors, but much of the yarn is donated. After each project is completed, the women gather round, put their hands on the item and pray as a group.
The completed items go to church members as well as people in the community whose names are quietly slipped to the ministry members. Most times, the gift is a surprise. A recipient might be recovering from surgery, fighting cancer or expecting a baby. Shawls typically go to women, while men get lap robes or small afghans.
“We’ve never given one to somebody who didn’t appreciate it,” Cross said.
Mooney talked about a little girl who was very sick and received one of the shawls.
“She said she slept with it every night and it brought her comfort.”
Cross keeps a photo album of each item and the thank you notes the group receives from grateful recipients.
“Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers,” one person wrote. “I love the shawl. It is very pretty. It’s nice to know there are special people out there like you all.”
Another wrote, “Your prayer shawl ministry is a blessing from God. It brings just joy from the heart to receive them.”
The effort inspired another group at the church to begin a blanket ministry to make blankets for hospital patients.
The ministry welcomes anyone who is interested in joining. Call the church at 573-431-1323 and leave a message. Someone will call back, the women said.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.